The nation has reached a state of feverish excitement as England prepares for its first World Cup semi-final since the penalty shootout heartbreak of Italia 90.
England erupted in collective euphoria on Saturday as almost 20 million gathered around TV sets to witness their comfortable 2-0 victory over Sweden, with a tough test against Croatia now awaiting Gareth Southgate’s side this evening.
His team's World Cup heroics have rejuvenated support for the Three Lions and lifted the mood of the nation after 52 years of hurt and failure, with footage shared on social media capturing the jubilant scenes in beer gardens and fan parks up and down the country.
Supporters now believe football could genuinely be coming home as World Cup hysteria sweeps the nation, hopeful this young English team can match the achievements of Sir Alf Ramsey's immortal 1966 side.
Excited fans gripped by football fever are now gearing up for England’s biggest match for more than two decades, with the catching excitement helping boost the economy through sales of beer, barbecues, replica shirts and even Southgate-inspired waistcoats.
UK economy boost
England’s unexpected success has delighted fans - leading to a boost for the economy as fans stock up on food, drink and TVs to watch matches on.
The match will add £555 million of consumer spending to the economy as people stock up on food, drink and memorabilia before tonight’s match, according to The Centre for Retail Research (CRR).
If England beat Croatia and make it into the final, CRR predicts that the World Cup will have boosted spending in the UK by £2.7 billion.
Nick Carroll, a Senior Research Analyst at market research company Mintel, said that the effect on British spending has grown with England’s success throughout the tournament.
World Cup | Economy boost
“On Saturday we saw the biggest viewing figures for a sports event since the 2012 Olympics”, said Mr Carroll.
“The early stages extra spending is driven by perhaps more football fans. Then as the narrative builds in the mood of the nation more people join in.
“Twenty million watched at home on Saturday, then many more around the country.
“That can only have a positive effect on spending.
“We have at least two more games - there will be further good spending there.”
Retailer John Lewis has also reported a “dramatic rise in sales of TVs” after each England win in Russia.
“After England won on the Tuesday evening, TV sales rose by 49%,” a spokesperson said. “Yesterday sales rose by 32% following England winning on Saturday. Large screen TVs are the most popular.”
Budget store Poundland reported a 59 per cent uplift in sales for St George’s Flags and a 45 per cent increase in people buying car flags.
“From Falmouth to Farnborough, England’s gone flag-tastic,” a spokesperson said.
‘Waistcoat Wednesday’ fever is sweeping the nation as England fans pay tribute to manager Gareth Southgate who has boosted sales of the sleeveless garment during the World Cup.
Telegraph readers, school children and celebrities are among those paying homage to the England boss as the Three Lions prepare to take on Croatia tonight.
Former Strictly Come Dancing star Brendan Cole and Good Morning Britain hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid are among those who have joined in.
Meanwhile, pupils from Minster Church of England Primary School in Ramsgate, Kent, also dressed up for the occasion today.
Supporters taking part in ‘Waistcoat Wednesday’ will be helping to raise vital funds for leading blood cancer charity Bloodwise.
Waistcoat Wednesday: Telegraph readers pay homage to Gareth Southgate
“As the whole country is gripped by football fever, and with Gareth’s waistcoat-wearing having elevated him to the level of footballing fashionista, we thought that urging people to wear waistcoats on Wednesday would be a way of getting behind the boys at the same as raising money for a good cause,” said Gemma Peters, chief executive of Bloodwise.
England shirts sell out
England’s historic run to the last four of the competition has resulted in a huge spike in demand for Three Lions shirts and retro apparel.
One popular training top retailing for £47.95 has sold out and is currently unvailable on the official England Store and Nike websites.
Retro football shirt merchants, Classic Football Shirts, told The Telegraph there has been a “massive increase in demand” for England shirts during the World Cup.
“As soon as England beat Colombia demand for classic England shirts increased massively and we've seen another spike after Gareth Southgate's side beat Sweden on Saturday,” said site spokesperson Greg Lee.
Anyone know where I can get this England Pre match/training shirt? Sold out everywhere �� pic.twitter.com/EN41QwZxzw— Coral (@crs_4_) July 7, 2018
“Currently 75 per cent of our new listings on the website are England shirts, which is over 200 a day to meet the demand. 15 per cent of all searches on the website were 'England' on Saturday. ”
He added: “We also have a pop-up shop in Shoreditch which is also seeing a huge number of England fans looking for a classic shirt to wear for the next England game. We are having to ship extra stock down to London every day to meet demand.”
There has also been an increase in fans purchasing retro Gareth Southgate England shirts, including the infamous grey Euro 96 away shirt from his penalty miss against Germany in the tournament.
England World Cup 2018 | Latest news
Fans rush to leave work early
Millions of hopeful fans rushing home to watch the game will be leaving work early this evening to get a prime viewing spot, predicts the AA.
“Football may be coming home but we predict that millions of people will be going home early this evening,” says Edmund King, AA president.
“Historically the biggest TV events and quietest roads in the UK were during the World Cup final in 1966 followed by funeral of Diana, Apollo 13, royal weddings and Muhammad Ali’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. This game will join the list.”
The evening rush hour from work will also be earlier than normal, predicts the AA, who say roads will be deserted as England kick off against Croatia.
“We are likely to see an earlier than normal rush hour from work, as despite a 7pm kick-off, many venues screening the match get filled up hours before the game,” adds Mr King.
“Rail commuters may also take earlier trains perhaps worried about delays or staff shortages due to the match.”
He adds: “AA Roadwatch predicts that the roads will be deserted from 7pm and much quieter than on Christmas day.
“Any drivers not interested in football will have the roads to themselves for at least 90 minutes from 7pm.”
RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said the busiest time on the roads would be between 4pm and 5pm.
He added: “We urge fans to keep calm and carry on as normally as possible, despite the obvious excitement, to make sure they get to where they need to be safely.”
Virgin Trains relaxed its ticket restrictions to ease travel ahead of the match.
The firm, which operates services on the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Scotland, was allowing passengers to use off-peak tickets on any train out of London Euston, while cheaper Advance tickets normally tied to particular trains can be used at any time.
A Virgin Trains spokeswoman said: "We're excited that football is coming home and we want people to get home in time for tonight's game so we are lifting ticket restrictions on our services. Come on England!"
The relentless heatwave which has coincided with Southgate’s side’s glorious run to the semi-finals will continue as England prepare for their biggest World Cup game for 28 years.
As beer gardens and fan parks begin to fill up across the country in eager anticipation, fans will be able to sit back and enjoy the sunshine before the game kicks off.
Heatwave June 2018 gallery puff
The Met Office is predicting a “pleasant evening” across most of the country, with temperatures still above average for the time of year, however they will dip slightly in
Spokesperson Nicola Maxey added the pleasant temperatures will make it easier to sleep tonight, and it’ll be sweet dreams for England fans should they progress to the final.
Emergency services deal with 'unprecedented' 999 calls
Emergency services are gearing up for tonight’s match after several areas faced unprecedented numbers of 999 calls after Saturday’s triumph.
Some police forces reported the highest-ever number of calls in 24 hours on Saturday after an increase in alcohol-fuelled violence.
West Midlands Police reported that they had taken 3,276 999 calls, the highest number in one day in their history, while police in Lancashire dealt with a record-breaking 2,200 incidents.
Devon and Cornwall Police had twice as many police logs than on New Year’s Eve, according to Dan Brenchley, an officer with the force.
Cars, including an ambulance, were targeted by fans after Saturday’s match.
An ambulance car on Borough High St, London, was jumped on by football fans, leading to it requiring repairs.
“Obviously we are chuffed with the result this afternoon but there is absolutely NO excuse to vandalise emergency service vehicles by jumping on them”, tweeted the Joint Response Unit of the Metropolitan Police.
Supporters of Millwall Football Club launched an appeal to raise funds to repair the car, which has raised over £5,000.
A taxi in Nottingham suffered a similar fate, with images showing fans egging each other on as they jumped on the car and smashed through its roof.
Police in the city said they cleared six tonnes of broken glass from the streets after the weekend’s celebrations.
Unusual places showing the match
Viewing figures for England matches have been increasing with the side’s wins throughout the tournament, with almost 20 million people in the UK tuning in to watch the quarter-final.
Saturday’s match against Sweden clashed with events including weddings, Wimbledon and even the General Synod of the Church of England.
We will be showing Wednesday's England vs Croatia game on Wednesday - doors open from 6:30pm for 7pm kick off.— Wesley's Chapel (@WesleysChapel) July 8, 2018
Sadly we were unable to show the Sweden game due to a prior booked event.
For tonight’s semi-final, churches across the country are putting up screens for what could be a quieter viewing experience than watching in the pub. Life Church in Poole, Wesley’s Chapel in London and Newport City Church are among those hosting football gatherings.
Henley Festival, the arts and music event, will be erecting screens by the river Thames for black tie guests to keep up with the score.
Alton Towers has recommended visitors head to the bars at the resort to get the best atmosphere.
Supporters will be able to watch the game as they travel on Brittany Ferries and any flight that offers Sport 24, which includes some services from American Airlines, Emirates, Etihad and Lufthansa.
TUI flights are not able to livestream the match, but the airline promised that pilots would try to keep passengers updated on the score where possible.
Where to watch?
Packed pubs with jumbo-sized screens and sunny beer gardens have become the epicentre of England fan celebrations during the tournament.
Videos capturing throngs of jubilant fans wildly celebrating each England goal and penalty shootout victory against the backdrop of a euphoric explosion of beer have been widely shared on social media over the summer.
Here are the best venues to watch the action unfold:
The 21 best places to watch the World Cup in London
World Cup electricity surge
The National Grid is predicting the biggest electricity surge of the tournament tonight as millions across the UK settle in to watch the drama unfold.
Congrats @England on getting through in the #WorldCup ! So the surge in demand for the #ENG vs #COL⚽️ game was even bigger than we predicted with 1200MGW. That's the same as 400k kettles being turned on. Well done lads - have a cuppa ☕️on us!— National Grid UK (@nationalgriduk) July 3, 2018
Known as TV pick-up, the phenomenon refers to a spike in demand that occurs when people boil kettles, open fridge doors or turn the lights on at the same time, often when a popular television programme has ended or during an ad break.
The top 10 TV pick-ups of all time
The demand for electricity is expected to hit 1,800MW as half-time during in tonight's match, the equivalent of 120 million fridge doors opening or 360 million smartphones charging at once. Should the match go to penalties, the numbers are expected to increase to 133 million and 400 million, respectively.
Beer drinkers should ‘keep calm and carry on’
The CO2 gas shortage has left some pubs low on certain beer brands, however the British Beer and Pub Association are confident that drinking establishments will not run dry during the World Cup.
“Although stocks of bulk CO2 remain low, brewers across the country are working their socks off around the clock to ensure there is still plenty of beer to go around,” said Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association.
“The UK can produce as much as 10 million pints of beer per day, and with signs of things improving, pubs will certainly not be running dry.
“Our message to beer drinkers and England fans is clear: keep calm and carry on going to the pub. If your usual beer of choice isn’t available, then why not use it as an opportunity to try something new?”
Three Lions fever
Three Lions, the iconic football anthem by The Lightning Seeds with comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, has been the soundtrack of England’s glorious World Cup run and inspired a host of memes.
After England’s quarter-final victory against Sweden on Saturday, Three Lions received over 1 million plays on Spotify in a single day, smashing last week’s record of 450,000 following the Colombia game. The song also topped the Spotify UK chart.
Three Lions also climbed to position five on YouTube’s UK Top Music Videos Chart this week, with daily views of the track across YouTube recently reaching as high as two million views, globally.
“The music video has seen massive views on the days where England has played,” said YouTube, “with daily global views spiking as much as 38,119 per cent compared to their pre-World Cup daily average for the year.”
It has also topped the unofficial Vodafone Big Top 40 chart, 22 years after its release ahead of Euro 96.
Rush to book flights
Headers from Leicester City defender Harry Maguire and Tottenham’s Dele Alli gave England victory over Sweden and sparked a scramble for last-minute plane tickets to Russia.
Searches for flights from London to Moscow rose by 654 per cent, in day on day searches, after England’s quarter-final victory and by 20 per cent the next day, according to lastminute.com.
Saturday and then Sunday were the largest booking days for London-Moscow all year, the booking website added.
“England's success has surprised and delighted the country and as we've progressed through the competition football fans have really begun to dream that 2018 could be our year,” said Reigo Eljas, Country Director UK & Ireland at lastminute.com.
“After each game we've seen rises in flight searches to Moscow, and confidence was clearly high after we beat Sweden with the most searches we've seen to date.
“The last semi-final was in 1990 so fans are thinking this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience this and make some special memories.”
Boost to barbecue sales
The World Cup combined with the ongoing heatwave has also boosted barbecue sales, according to Waitrose.
"As the nation soaks up the summer sun and spirits are lifted thanks to a win in the football, sales at Waitrose are reflective of the celebratory mood this week,” a spokesperson said.
“Football fever has well and truly taken hold, with the nation preparing for festivities for the football finals this week, with barbecue fuel sales increasing by 14 per cent. Burger and sausage sales were heating up by 55 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Our forecasters also predicted that Waitrose would sell 35 per cent more barbecue food than on an average warm week.”
Waitrose added sales of Pimm’s, fizz, beer and cider have also increased, with the supermarket chain reporting their biggest weekend of sales since Christmas.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s expects to sell over one million cases of beer ahead of the match - almost enough bottles to line the distance between England and Russia.
The supermarket chain is anticipating a massive surge in beer sales during the semi-finals with purchases set to rise +40 per cent from last week.
England odds on to qualify for finals
Bookmaker Coral make England the favourites to progress in their tie against Croatia and second favourites to win the tournament overall, behind France.
“Croatia will certainly be a tough game but Gareth Southgate's England are flying and with the Croatians having to come through two periods of extra-time already we think the odds are slightly in England's favour,” said Coral's Harry Aitkenhead.
He added: “Should England go on to win the World Cup it would spark one of the biggest payouts in history for the bookies, with thousands of patriotic punters having an extra reason to cheer on the Three Lions as history beckons.”
World Cup hangover clean-up will cost ‘millions’
The clean-up bill for World Cup celebrations should England progress to the final will end up costing millions of pounds, according to research by BusinessWaste.co.uk.
Copy of World Cup waste
“As a nation, we are all looking forward to watching England play tonight,” said spokesperson Mark Hall, “However, it won’t just be fans waking up with a hangover on Thursday - companies, waste collection teams and local councils will also have a costly environmental hangover to deal with.
“We urge people who are having BBQs and drinks in the public areas to take their rubbish home with them and recycle it correctly - and for those of you having a late night kebab, the empty tray goes in the bin, not the street.”
World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more